Sunday, March 18, 2007

Foreign Affairs: Osterholm renews warnings about possible future H5N1 pandemic


Foreign Affairs is a pricey, upscale gray-covered book-like periodical that appears in larger chain book stores.

Michael T. Osterholm of the University of Minnesota has an article "Unprepared for a Pandemic: Sounding the Alarm, Again," in the March/April 2007 of Foreign Affairs., pp 47-57. He is concerned that medical evidence is mounting that H5N1 (avian influenza or bird flu) could be more volatile than previously thought. He writes in the last section called "Now or Later" : "It is a particularly complicated problem because preparing for a pandemic challenges the very basis of the global just-in-time economy...In the short term, people around the world must understand that when a pandemic unfolds, their communities will largely be on their own to get through the crisis. .. They should plan now and learn to depend on themselves, their families, their neighbors, and their co-workers."

This raises a major point about socialization. The global economy and Internet have helped fuel the idea that an individual may become a “citizen of the world” without any particular loyalty to or attention to the needs of his own biological family or immediate community. H5N1 can certainly threaten that. The Internet cuts both ways. It can provide the opportunity to telecommute and work from home during periods of high contagion, but companies that supply electric power and telecommunications must be able to function in every area; one cannot be completely sure that they could.

Osterholm points out that pandemic flu is potentially very crippling as an exogenous threat to modern technological interdependence, because one cannot count on another section of the country to provide supplies and services, as is the case with almost any other conceivable disaster (except maybe a large asteroid or nuclear war).

Remember, Stephen King had explored this concept with his massive 1978 novel The Stand (revised in 1990).

This issue also has a Response by Paul Farmer, “From ‘Marvelous Momentum’ to Health Care for All: Success Is Possible With the Right Programs: Intelligent Design,” p. 155, where Mr. Farmer responds to a January/February issue by Laurie Garrett “The Challenge of Global Health” where AIDS is seen as drawing money away from other health problems of the poor.

1 comment:

Annie said...

Hooray for Osterhom. Keep shouting, more and more are listening and getting the words to prepare now while there is time to prepare! Hopefully he tells folk to prepare for more than three weeks, more like three months or MORE! Get your homes, finances, wills, and burial affairs in order now.